SPRING HARVEST : Gamechangers. (Elevation : ELE2134D)
Here’s one of the annual collections of songs from this year’s Spring Harvest. It contains 16 songs featuring lead worshippers Cathy Burton, Ben Cantelon, Lou Fellingham, Nick Herbert, Chris McClarney and Sound of Wales. It’s Cantelon who starts proceedings, with a song called “Lion and The Lamb.” There’s bright guitars, that lead to a typically modern worship song, but with the added bonus of an over long bridge. “Hallelujah” features Fellingham on vocals and I was surprised just how squeaky her voice sounded. However, most of the album suffers from rather poor vocal production, which surprised me, as Elevation are usually so good with live recordings. On “Highway to the Heavens” Burton gives a gentle, laid back vocal, while McClarney gives a very lethargic performance on “No Longer Slaves.” Even though the song does improve towards the end, it just doesn’t hold the power of the Newsboys recent version. Sound of Wales offer, possibly, the best tracks on the album, with “Wide Open Spaces” and “Here is Love.” Both songs contain excellent vocals, and the latter is, for me, simply glorious. Of the rest of the songs, Nick Herbert shows great feeling on the particularly engaging track “Lord I Need You,” and Cathy Burton receives great audience appreciation on “Great is Our God.” Of all the live Spring Harvest albums I’ve had the pleasure to listen to, this one just seems to lack a little of the magic. 6/10.
SPRING HARVEST : New Songs For the Church 2016. (Elevation : ELE2130D)
Here’s a selection of 12 songs of worship and proclamation to inspire faith and stir hearts into action. Written by a variety of leading songwriters, I enthusiastically listened to see which songs I might use myself in the future to lead worship. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long. Both of the opening numbers are very strong. “Every Giant Will Fall” has a superb chorus that tells that nothing is impossible with Jesus. I very much liked the fiddle sound on David Lyon’s “I Will Hope.” It’s a bouncy song that has just a hint of Celtic traits about it. “In God We Trust” sounded so typically Hillsongs that I had a quick look at the writing credits. It was no surprise, then, to find that Reuben Morgan was one of the co-writers. I recently wrote highly of Christine DiMarco’s latest album and from it comes “Eyes on You.” It’s a terrific song and one that I highlighted as being perfect for church use at the time. That track starts a real purple patch for the album. Next up, the pure acoustic sound of “Alleluia He Has Loved Us” hit just the right note with me. This is followed by Simon Brading’s “Alive With Worship.” I’ve got to say that this song had me singing along straight away. The chorus, especially is so catchy. Vocals of the album have to come from the uncredited female on “Never Gonna Stop Singing.” What a great sentiment! Her voice drives the song along and is accompanied by some well played banjo sounds. Social media was recently complaining that there weren’t enough new, powerful songs for the church. Well, I’d like to point those people who made those comments to this release. Twelve new songs and some very good ones, at that! 9/10.
SPRING HARVEST : Immeasurably More. Elevation : ELE2034D)
Featuring a host of worship leaders, this new collection from Spring Harvest contains songs written over the last couple of years. Ben Cantelon starts things off with a modern dance sound, “The Way”, that lends more than a passing nod to Martin Smith’s “God’s Great Dance Floor.” In similar lively fashion is the next song, “Emmanuel”, written by Nick Herbet, Martin Smith, and Matt Redman. After listening to both of these songs, I wondered if I was going to be listening to an album of dance songs but, thankfully, that was not the case. Sarah Bird sings on “You Make Me Brave”, and I found this song very difficult to imagine being used for collective worship. She sings well enough, but it really came across as a performance song, rather than worship. There is some lovely worship on “God is Able” (Pete James) and “At the Cross” (Cathy Burton), before the rather mournful sounding “King of Compassion” had me reaching for the “off” button on my player. Cantelon rises again with “Can’t Stop Your Love”, while the old maestro Graham Kendrick sings a lovely, gentle version of “Remember Me”. Dare I say, one of his best of recent times. Most of these songs will be new to the listener, but after a few listens, a number of them become quite memorable. 8/10.
SPRING HARVEST : New Songs for Kids. (Elevation : ELE23031D)
You can always count on Spring Harvest to come up with a decent collection of songs for kids. These 12 energetic and imaginative songs have been crafted by some of the best worship songwriters around. For instance, Sue Rinaldi and Becky Frith are behind the happy and joyful opener, “The Word of God”. “Beautiful Day” is a bit of a throwback to those of us, old enough to remember Kool and the Gang. The third track testifies that God can do “More Than I Imagine”, and it’s an easy song for kids to pick up and join in. I would say that most of the songs are aimed at early teens, but there’s also one or two that are more suitable for younger children, such as “Jetpack” and “Jesus Doesn’t Live in a Caravan”. Trevor Ranger’s “So Much More” stood out for me. I just thought that the song itself was head and shoulders above the rest, and Jen Jarvis’ vocals are excellent. “Know More God” gets a 90’s Kylie treatment, while “Wake” sounds like one of those Ibiza summer dance hits, that appears each year. Of course, all the lyrics are God focussed, so there’s no excuse for churches and schools not to welcome this collection. 8/10.
SPRING HARVEST : Newsongs for the Church 2015. (Elevation : ELE2030D)
I often worry that new songs aimed at use in the church, tend to alienate the older members of the congregation. Why? Well, although there’s nothing wrong with contemporary pop/rock songs, do we really cater for the older generation? Take this album, for instance. Songwriting credits include Chris Tomin, Matt Redman and Ben Cantelon, and they do write fine songs. “At the Cross”, “Anchor”, and “Lord Have Mercy” are just three of the future church hits. I liked “Immeasurably More” as a song, but I just can’t see it being used by a gathering of adults aged over 50. I, certainly, wouldn’t! “Christ Be All Around Me” is a more worshipful number, while “Your Great Love” has all the traits of being another Celtic hymn from the home of the Getty’s. However, Colin Webster is the songwriter here, and what a fine job he has done. The female vocals are exceptionally good. If one song really touched me, it was “Jesus is Alive”. It’s a classic, modern hymn and one of the best of its kind. I’d heard “Wide Open Spaces” before, but it was still good to hear this epic piece once again. There are certainly some smashing songs on this album, including the powerful “Calvary”, and the larger, contemporary churches will welcome them with open arms. 8/10.
SPRING HARVEST : Kids Praise Party 2 DVD. (Elevation : ELE1932A)
A couple of years ago Spring Harvest released the Kids Praise Party DVD and what an excellent DVD it was too. I believe I gave it 9/10 at the time. So, it was with great anticipation that my youngest daughter and I opened up this DVD to see what Percy Penguin had to offer this time around. Once again the songs are backed up with cartoon animations and feature optional subtitles and sign language. It features a variety of musical styles from rock to rap across 10 well known songs such as “Every Move I Make”, “I Love Ya” and “King of Majesty”. Beware, the version of “Happy Day” is not the Tim Hughes version, but the traditional song, though that isn’t a problem – it’s actually nice to hear that version for a change. Once again, it’s upbeat and joyful most of the way through with some fantastic musical arrangements and musicianship, which leads me to ask, why does this have to be confined to children’s worship? Anyway, what I think is largely irrelevant. What about its target audience. I’ll let my daughter answer – “I thoroughly enjoyed watching most of the songs on this DVD. The good thing is that I knew some songs on it and sang along! But there also is a bad thing to it. I didn’t like the song ‘Shackles’. Apart from that, it was really good!!” 9/10 Robin Thompson.
SPRING HARVEST 2014 : New Songs For Unbelievable Worship. (Elevation : ELE1930D)
Here we go, then, with the annual collection of songs from the year’s Spring Harvest event. Two Cd’s for you. Individual songs aren’t credited for the singers, but taking part are the likes of Cathy Burton, Nicki Rogers, Sam Cox, Doug Walker, and Dan Wheeler. There have been so many songs written containing the phrase ‘He is Risen’ but this song, written by Graham Kendrick and Paul Baloche is a lovely song. The female vocalist caresses each word, and I found myself singing along very quickly. ‘All God’s Children’ is another good song, but I found the repeating chorus a little too much, at the end.If you’re a fan of 80’s power ballads, then ‘Mystery of Faith’ should be right up your street. There’s great vocals, as the song centre’s around the phrase that God will “always be there”. Other highlights of the first CD include ‘Magnificent Kindness’, and the excellent congregational song ‘Always Good’. The second CD is acoustic and a more intimate affair. Pete James’ ‘All or Nothing’ gets a lovely treatment from the female vocalist, while the classic Wesley hymn ‘And Can It Be’ is re-worked, musically, by Steve Parsons. Sadly, the majesty of the original version is completely lost, and the new version did nothing for me. If you like your quiet worship times, then the acoustic sounds are gentle and mellow, and will appease sufficiently. I just got the feeling that rather too many of them sounded alike. But, on the whole, you can’t knock the collection of new songs, and for that Spring Harvest must be applauded. 7/10.